The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 is the sequel to one of the best wireless headphones ever made. It is not a Red Dot Design Award material or a flashy model aimed at fashion-conscious music lovers. It’s simply a no-frills headset with superior audio quality, battery life, and connectivity.
Even without coveted features like Active Noise Cancellation and Ambient Listening, the ATH-M50xBT2 offers plenty of value at an affordable price.
Some of its downsides may make you lean towards popular rivals among consumer favorites like Beats, JBL, and Sony. But if you’re familiar with Audio-Technica’s sonic pedigree, you know the ATH-M50xBT2 is a sure shot for sonic bliss.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 Availability and Pricing
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 can be purchased in black for $199 at major online retailers, including Amazon and Dell, or directly from Audio-Technica. A second color (Lantern Glow) retails for $219 on the company’s website. Inside the box is an audio cable, a carrying pouch, and a USB-C charging cable.
For comparison, these cans are listed lower than high-end noise cancelers like the $379 Bose 700 and $349 Sony WH-1000XM4, but have a higher MSRP than the acclaimed mid-range ones. review like the $149 Cleer Enduro ANC.
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Design and comfort Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
If the ATH-M50xBT2 looks too familiar, it’s because the design has been left virtually untouched from the original. It stays true to the traditional studio headphone look, donning an all-black exterior made up of plastic. You’ll also find circular silver accents on the front of each ear cup and on the sides of each hinge.
What it lacks in pizzaz, it makes up for in construction. These cans are well constructed and easy to carry. The ear cups rotate and fold inwards for convenient storage in any laptop bag or the accompanying leatherette sleeve, which provides more space for carrying other accessories.
Keeping them on your head for over an hour will cause some discomfort due to the clamping force. I noticed drivers pressing against my ears, as did my wife during a short test drive. The padding in the ear cups is soft and pleasant, but gets hot after a while, and the headband offers very little support on top of the head. Since the headphones are rather heavy (10.6 ounces), you’ll need to adjust the extenders properly or risk serious slipping.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 Controls and Digital Assistant
The control scheme is basic, yet versatile. A three-button module sits on the left earcup for playback, call handling, power/pairing, and volume. Above is an action button to activate your device’s native digital assistant. Each button produces solid tactility, ensuring commands are met with every single/multiple/long press.
I already knew the touch sensors weren’t in the cards, but I had hoped the motion detection would pause/autoplay when removing or placing the headphones on my head. No dice.
Audio-Technica makes up for that with Alexa integration, letting you activate Amazon’s voice assistant via the “Alexa” wake word. It works well, thanks to an intelligible dual-mic array that demonstrates excellent voice pickup for instant hands-free activation. Google Assistant, Siri and Bixby are also compatible and can be manually activated to provide similar performance.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 sound quality
Some serious audio specs are under the hood. We’re talking 45mm large-aperture drivers, an amplifier, an internal DAC, and High-Resolution Audio (LDAC) support. Altogether this helps create detailed and clear high fidelity sound.
I started with fun selections like Run DMC and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”. The bass kick and snare drums hit hard, and Steven Tyler’s moaning voice rang out well; the transition to more bass-heavy tracks was equally satisfying. The drum loop and synths of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin & Juice” sounded crisp and funky, making for a headbanging good time.
What I found most surprising was the stereo imaging of the ATH-M50xBT2. This is remarkable. Most mid-range wireless headphones can’t accurately identify the direction of individual sounds in songs. These headphones can – and do – just as well as expensive models like the WH-1000XM4.
It’s enough to give any jazz record a spin with a strong instrumental performance. I recommend the “Patterns” by Ahmad Jamal Trio, which sounds like a live concert in your ears. The further you go into the song, the more you’ll pick up subtle nuances like cymbal hits and double bass plucks.
While the headphones sound great right out of the box, Audio-Technica gives users the freedom to tweak them by selecting from five different EQs: Original (default), Bass Boost, Clear Vocal, Treble Enhanced, and V- Shaped. They’re well-designed, but if you’re someone who wants more emphasis on specific frequencies, each is worth playing around with. Bangers like Black Milk’s “Black Sabbath”, where the EQ for both bass and vocals are already high, have benefited from this feature. Clear Vocal brought more definition to the sadly sung hook and V-Shaped balanced the low end, resulting in a less distorted presentation.
LDAC support is appreciated for enjoying lossless streaming services, although it does not work so well. Transfer rates were slow and there were occasional dropouts when playing Qobuz tracks. Luckily, you can get true lossless playback while using the supplied audio cable, an accessory that adds more bass punch and slightly boosts the volume.
A low latency mode is also available; it syncs the voices to the videos better.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 Special Features and App
The Audio-Technica Connect app is where most of the magic happens. Besides the previously mentioned audio features, there are other benefits worth exploring. You can adjust the sound between left and right channels, as well as volume levels from 16 to 64 levels. Other notable elements include a visual quick guide, volume slider, and battery level indicators.
You can download Connect for iOS or Android, but let me warn you that some Android users may experience pairing issues, depending on their device. The app was extremely biased against my Samsung Galaxy Note S20 Ultra, constantly throwing “failed to connect” errors on the screen when the headphones were already paired to the smartphone. This was not the case when I was using my damaged but still functional Google Pixel 6 XL Pro or Pixel 2 XL.
Battery life and Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 charging case
Audio-Technica has included a DC 3.7V lithium polymer battery for 50 hours of continuous use. That’s more than double the playtime of top ANC models like the AirPods Max and Bose 700; each is capped at 8 p.m. The only other wireless headphones with more battery life are the Enduro ANC (60 hours with ANC on) and the Edifier W830BT (95 hours).
It can take up to three hours to fully charge the headphones, but if you’re the impatient type, the ATH-M50xBT2 offers incredibly powerful fast charging. A 10-minute charge equals three hours of playtime.
Call quality and connectivity Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2
As a call headset, the ATH-M50xBT2 isn’t very usable due to muffling issues and the mics letting in too much external sound. Most of my calls have received negative feedback. My voice was overpowered by background noise, no matter the environment. Video calls went the same way.
At least Bluetooth 5.0 exceeded expectations. The range was much higher than what Audio-Technica advertised on the ATH-M50xBT2 product page (33 feet), achieving up to 45 feet of wireless listening before dropping out. Pairing was instant on Android devices with one-touch Google Fast Pair. There is also multipoint technology to connect the headphones to two devices at the same time.
At the end of the line
You can go fishing with plenty of $199 wireless headphones, and you’ll be lucky to have a pair that can hit must-have benchmarks (battery life, connectivity, sound) like the Audio-Technica does. ATH-M50xBT2. The audio is superbly balanced with a clean, natural delivery that some experts said the original lacked. Up to 50 hours of play guarantee zero complaints. And the variety of new wireless features like Alexa voice activation, LDAC and multi-touch technology show the company’s commitment to modernizing each release without compromising their minimalist, nostalgic designs.
However, the ATH-M50xBT2 is not flawless. If Audio-Technica had put more effort into tweaking call quality and the companion app, as well as adding effective ANC, these headphones might have scored a perfect score.